The topic of how to raise an intuitive eater seems to keep coming up these days so I’m sharing four tips today about how to raise an intuitive eater.
This post is sponsored by (and photo credit to) Revolution Foods. Thanks for supporting the brands and organizations that make TFD possible! As always, opinions are my own.
I’ve been thinking more and more about this idea of raising an intuitive eater lately. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I recently chatted about my own personal experience with food growing up (spoiler alert: it was not intuitive) with Paige Smathers on her podcast Nutrition Matters. Or, if it’s the fact that more and more friends and colleagues my age are raising kids of their own and sharing their struggles. Or, if I’m starting to think about the type of eater I want to raise and how I want my kids to have a very normal, healthy relationship with food.
I was traveling in Cleveland this week for a press trip and one of the company representatives asked for one of us to explain what intuitive eating is and why it seems to be gaining in popularity (there were like 75% intuitive eating RDs in the room, which was super inspiring). I raised my hand and went into my explanation of intuitive eating but at the end of the day I like to boil it down to this: Intuitive eating is getting back to the way you were born to eat. We are all born intuitive eaters. If you ever watch a toddler eat, it may seem confusing to us adults, like wait a minute, why are they hungry again, they just ate an hour ago! Or, maybe you think they should be hungry but they’re not interested in food. That’s because toddlers are listening to their own innate hunger/fullness cues to determine when and how much to eat.
You are born with this connection to your body’s inner wisdom but somewhere along the way, that connection gets interrupted. Usually it’s due to a myriad of external factors like the media, our parents, health professionals and/or friends telling you what and when we should and shouldn’t eat. You start to rely on these external factors to dictate your eating patterns and in turn, you lose touch with your body’s signals.
How you are raised around food dictates your relationship with food as an adult. If you want your kiddo to have a normal relationship with food as an adult, here are some tips on how to raise an intuitive eater (full disclosure – I am not a parent and so this advice comes from my own experience and knowledge as an intuitive eating counselor and RD):
- Provide structure and variety. As a parent, your job is to provide regular access to a variety of foods and to create a positive eating environment. Offer regular meal and snack times and offer a variety of foods to choose from at those times. Continue to introduce new foods they may not have tried before. Encourage family meals around the table with positive conversation.
- Be careful of your language around food. Avoid placing morality onto foods, aka labeling foods as good or bad or calling certain foods “junk foods.” Replace junk food with “fun food.” Replace “good” or “healthy” food with “nourishing” or “growing” foods. This will help your kids to look at food in a more neutral, less judgmental way.
- Allow your kids to be the experts of their own bodies. If your kid says they’re hungry but they recently ate, don’t question them. If your kid says they’ve had enough to eat but you wish they would eat more veggies, don’t force them to eat them because then those foods will carry a negative connotation.
- Look at what is happening at school. If your kid is eating two out of three meals a day at school, that’s a pretty significant influence on their relationship with food. Talk to the teachers about not pressuring or interfering with what your kid is eating at breakfast/lunch. Check out the school’s lunch program – are they offering kids a variety of nourishing and fun foods to choose from?
I was inspired to write this post today because of the awesome work that is happening here right here in the Greater Boston Area with school nutrition. Revolution Foods is empowering kiddos to feel and do their best by providing access to great tasting, nourishing, affordable meals to all Boston Public School students. Their meals are prepared fresh daily and made from high quality ingredients, free from artificial ingredients, colors, flavors or sweeteners. Since becoming the school meals provider for Boston Public Schools and select Charter schools last fall, I’m really impressed with what they’ve been able to acheive:
- Served 5.3 million chef-crafted, kid-inspired nourishing meals to students in the Boston area
- Created over 80 new jobs in the Boston community
- Expanded capacity to produce more than 750,000 meals per week and streamlined operations to enable a wider selection of fresh local and regional produce, high quality proteins, and rBST-free dairy products in school meals
- Introduced culturally relevant menu items to Boston schools, including bean and cheese pupusas, sweet potato-crushed fish sandwiches, chicken drumsticks with rice and collard greens, and more
- Partnered with local organizations including FoodCorps, CommonWealth Kitchen, and Cooking Matters, to implement nutrition education programs, monthly vegetable tastings and cooking workshops for students and families
And most importantly, Revolution Foods believes that everyone deserves choice, even kids. They provide breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, over 100 delicious meals, beverage choices, and daily entree choices. They have vegetarian and dairy-free options available daily too. Choice and variety are two of the best ways we can empower kids to become intuitive eaters, and Revolution Foods is supporting that movement through their own values and mission. I hope that school meal programs will continue to evolve to give kids a variety of nourishing and fun foods and empower them to make their own choices.
Tell me, what would you add to this list to support raising an intuitive eater?
Ps. if you’re interested in learning more, my colleagues wrote a fab book called Born to Eat that is a wonderful resource for learning how to raise intuitive eaters!